Controlling your appetite is very important in order to be able to maintain or lose weight. The human body needs food to survive and every time we consume it, our body rewards us by making us feel better. This process happens in our brain and is called a reward system.
When a nutrient stimulates our nervous system, the brain compensates us with dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure. Dopamine regulates the reward system, which leads us not only to behaviors that make us feel very good, but also to repeat and reinforce them. The problem is when you eat without really being hungry. The release of dopamine produces emotional relief, whether or not what we are eating is healthy.
“The neural control of eating involves activity in brain circuits that process signals of nutritional state and food reward value. The ingestion of food reduces the incentive value of food, which is reflected in decreased activity in reward-related brain areas, However, eating is also influenced by higher cognitive processes such as attention and memory and it has recently been suggested that metabolic signals may have indirect effects on food reward processing via alterations in higher cognitive function.”1
“Appetite is generally described as the desire to consume food and is experienced as perceived hunger, desire to eat, urge to eat, and/or prospective food intake. Alternately, satiety is the feeling of being satisfactorily full and unable to eat any more food. Therefore, appetite control is the summation of the perceived appetite and satiety sensations that ultimately lead to whether food is or is not consumed. Appetite control is typically quantified in several ways. The first involves the assessment of the previously mentioned perceived sensations through the use of visual analogue scale questionnaires of ‘how strong is your feeling of ….’ or indirectly by measuring subsequent energy intake. Another approach involves the examination of key appetite-suppressing and appetite-stimulating gastrointestinal hormones that are secreted in response to energy intake. Lastly, gastric emptying (specifically gastric motility) has been reported as another mechanism affecting appetite control. Throughout this article, each of these outcomes will be presented in relation to eating frequency.”2
“Intake of food will at some point reduce hunger and inhibit further food intake for a longer or shorter period. In this course of action, there are two processes involved: satiation and satiety. Satiation develops during an eating episode and causes meal termination, thus controlling meal size, whereas satiety occurs as a consequence of an eating episode and will temporarily inhibit further meal initiations. Satiation is also known as intrameal satiety and satiety as intermeal satiety.”3
Hunger can appear at any time. One way to control it is to provide the body with the nutrients it really needs. Leading an active lifestyle and a balanced diet should mitigate out-of-the-blue hunger, as will a regular pattern of scheduled meals to avoid obesity and cardiovascular risk.
To control excessive hunger
After eating, the stomach nerves send a signal of satiation to the brain, but it takes between 10 – 30 minutes before hunger is suppressed. Due to this delay, it is very likely that the person feels hungry until the body detects satiety. The best way to avoid this is to take your time when eating.
Eat before you know you’re about to feel hungry
Spending a lot of time without eating will cause a feeling of uncontrollable hunger. Instead of waiting to feel hungry, it’s advised to eat small portions of food about 5 to 6 times a day. “The regulation of food intake is based on a network of interactions forming a biological system, which is influenced by environment, i.e. the availability of nutrients and various psychological factors such as stress, as well as by a genetic predisposition. It is a complex system, as has been described in a number of recent reviews. Basically food intake is controlled by excitatory and inhibitory signaling systems. The signals are generated both from the peripheral organs, like the intestine, the liver and the adipose tissue, and from the brain itself. The final targeting of the signals resides in the brain, in various nuclei of the hypothalamus. The identification of hunger and satiety peptides as well as their receptors in recent years has greatly increased our understanding of appetite regulation. Tools are continuously being targeted that could be useful in the pharmacological treatment of eating disorders; both anorexia and obesity.”4
Many people don’t know it, but there is a relationship between the quality of nighttime sleep and the ability to control hunger. The lack of adequate rest increases the desire to eat sweets and fat. In addition, it can cause serious health problems in the medium and long term.
Increase water consumption
More than 50% of the population suffers some degree of dehydration due to the low consumption of healthy liquids. What most do not consider is that this has negative effects on health and could even generate a sensation that can be confused with hunger.
Avoid foods that increase hunger
Limit foods like cakes and pastries, which contribute to having higher levels of sugar in the blood. “Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of snacking occasions in the US, which has occurred concomitantly with the rise in obesity. The relationship between increased snacking and obesity may well be attributed to the types of foods typically consumed in these smaller ‘in-between meal’ eating occasions. In the US population, nearly one third of daily intake is comprised of snack foods which tend to be nutrient-poor, yet energy dense foods (i.e., desserts, salty/high fat snacks, and candy) that are high in saturated fat and/or simple sugars and may lead to energy surplus/over-eating.”5
Increase your fiber intake
Try to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. Fiber is a good ally. Its slow digestion gives us the feeling of satiety for longer periods. “Particularly, many studies indicate that dietary fiber may be associated with satiation, satiety and reduction of energy intake via several different mechanisms. High protein food has shown to produce increased satiety and to promote weight regulation after weight loss. In addition, current research on the role of quality of fat and glycemic index of food in the regulation of weight, satiety and hunger is actively ongoing but the results so far are inconclusive. The physical properties of food are also important in the satiating effect of food. Food macrostructure effects the rate with which food exits the stomach and the rate of absorption of nutrients. This in turn is correlated to blood glucose and insulin responses and may also affect the feeling of satiety.”6
Practice sports on a regular basis
Besides being essential to a healthy life, exercise will help to motivate you to avoid taking refuge in food.
“Another potential confounder of appetite is exercise, which can alter gut appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin, peptide YY (PYY), and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Although some controversy exists, a growing body of research indicates that an acute bout of exercise can transiently suppress appetite for 2–10 h post-exercise. Further, the suppressive effects of exercise on appetite may be exercise intensity dependent, with greater suppression occurring after higher intensity exercise. However, the research literature is still equivocal as to how appetite is influenced by the type, duration, intensity, and mode of exercise. In addition, subject characteristics (e.g., body fatness, fitness level, age or sex) differ and may further contribute to discrepancies in the research literature. Exercise-trained individuals exercise regularly and can exercise at higher intensities for longer periods of time compared to their sedentary counterparts. These two factors may result in post-exercise appetite suppression occurring frequently throughout the day, since athletes typically exercise daily and some exercise twice a day. Thus, more research is needed to understand the impact of various modes and intensities of exercise and fitness level on appetite in different populations.”7
Do not stress
In situations of stress, the brain stimulates the adrenal glands. These glands release cortisol, a hormone that increases motivation in general, including the desire to eat. “Although the link between stress and emotional eating has been well established, little research has focused on the underlying mechanisms that mediate such an association. We argued that one possible mediator between stress and emotional eating behaviors would be eating dysregulation, a construct that is theoretically related to both experience of stress and emotional eating. Eating dysregulation refers to individuals’ tendency of not being responsive or sensitive to internal cues of hunger and satiety to decide the amount to eat, thus relying on external factors to initiate and stop eating”8
“There exists a bidirectional relationship between stress and eating. Stress can result in decreased food intake if high-calorie, palatable food is not available. In the presence of high-calorie palatable foods, stress results in increased food intake. This stress-induced hyperphagia can partly be explained by the rewarding and stress-relieving potential of food. Stress can be a potential cause for the development of obesity only if accompanied by increased eating behaviors. This highlights the fact that behavioral modifications can be significant to prevent stress from potentiating the development of obesity.”9
“External cues related to food and the food consumption environment exert their effect on subjective feelings of hunger and satiety through psychological processes as an addition to the internal signals from physiological processes. External, environmental cues as for example packaging and portion sizes and labelling, tend to be strong, salient and seductive, and are believed to undermine the process of self-regulation necessary to the accurate management of food intake. Thus, subjective feelings of hunger and satiety are under the joint control of internal physiological signals and signals from the food consumption environment. These two types of signals may be aligned in that external cues possibly enhance and strengthen internal signals of hunger and satiety, but in many instances external cues signaling when to start, what to eat, how much to consume and when to stop, may override the internal signals of ‘start and stop’ any consumption event, potentially leading to overconsumption.
The two interrelated processes of satiation and satiety are crucial for accurate food intake management. Satiation, sometimes referred to as within-meal satiety is the process that leads to the termination of eating. Satiety, sometimes referred to as between-meal satiation, is the feeling of fullness after a meal and serves as a signal for the timing and size of the next consumption moment. For human food consumption, with more or less structured eating occasions, satiety is the more strategic process in food intake management as food intake decisions are made in an anticipatory fashion. That is, how much to consume at any discrete consumption occasion to ensure that the next eating occasion can be reached comfortably without a lack of energy or unpleasant feelings of hunger that may undermine the self-control to resist temptations to (over-) consume in between.”10
“It is possible for any food or drink to affect appetite, and so it is important to determine whether, for a given amount of energy, particular variables have the potential to enhance or reduce satiation or satiety. A great deal of research has been conducted to investigate the effect of different foods, drinks, food components and nutrients on satiety. Overall, the characteristic of a food or drink that appears to have the most impact on satiety is its energy density. That is the amount of energy it contains per unit weight (kJ/g, kcal/g). When energy density is controlled, the macronutrient composition of foods does not appear to have a major impact on satiety. In practice, high-fat foods tend to have a higher energy density than high-protein or high-carbohydrate foods, and foods with the highest water content tend to have the lowest energy density.”11
Sometimes, controlling the impulse to eat is not easy, but we hope that these tips will help you. With discipline you can achieve whatever you want. Food is delicious and obviously vital. The most important thing is to always do it in a healthy way.
(1) Higgs, S., Spetter, M. S., Thomas, J. M., Rotshtein, P., Lee, M., Hallschmid, M., & Dourish, C. T. (2017). Interactions between metabolic, reward and cognitive processes in appetite control: Implications for novel weight management therapies. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(11), 1460-1474. Available online at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/aeb1/4b946ef374022dac037de88a212b4fd2a570.pdf
(2) Leidy, H. J., & Campbell, W. W. (2010). The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies. The Journal of nutrition, 141(1), 154-157. Available online at https://watermark.silverchair.com/154.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAjgwggI0BgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggIlMIICIQIBADCCAhoGCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQMdFGTOIBWI3KNb9s3AgEQgIIB6zNwOyxO8QFz8ndTFgG57Jpynb4gol2uO3rL2aQKbedNgHjtQC_s
(3) Hervik, A. K., & Svihus, B. (2019). The Role of Fiber in Energy Balance. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2019. Available online at https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2019/4983657/
(4) Erlanson‐Albertsson, C. (2005). Appetite regulation and energy balance. Acta Paediatrica, 94, 40-41. Available online at http://www.erlanson-albertsson.se/Actaped05.pdf
(5) Salmenkallio-Marttila, M., & Gunnarsdóttir, I. (2009). Satiety, weight management and foods: literature review. Available online at http://www.nordicinnovation.org/Global/_Publications/Reports/2009/06078_satiety_weight_management_and_foods_literature_review_web.pdf
(6) Ortinau, L. C., Hoertel, H. A., Douglas, S. M., & Leidy, H. J. (2014). Effects of high-protein vs. high-fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition journal, 13(1), 97. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190484/
(7) Howe, S., Hand, T., & Manore, M. (2014). Exercise-trained men and women: role of exercise and diet on appetite and energy intake. Nutrients, 6(11), 4935-4960. Available online at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/710b/7f3d1163089957d35ad3c4d4c19c64deef64.pdf
(8) Tan, C. C., & Chow, C. M. (2014). Stress and emotional eating: The mediating role of eating dysregulation. Personality and Individual Differences, 66, 1-4. Available online at https://www.emich.edu/psychology/forms/chow.pub.tan-chow-2014-paid.pdf
(9) Ans, A. H., Anjum, I., Satija, V., Inayat, A., Asghar, Z., Akram, I., & Shrestha, B. (2018). Neurohormonal Regulation of Appetite and its Relationship with Stress: A Mini Literature Review. Cureus, 10(7). Available online at https://assets.cureus.com/uploads/review_article/pdf/13630/1537566448-20180921-17921-vs4nk1.pdf
(10) Bilman, E., van Kleef, E., & van Trijp, H. (2017). External cues challenging the internal appetite control system—overview and practical implications. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(13), 2825-2834. Available online at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10408398.2015.1073140
(11) Benelam, B. (2009). Satiation, satiety and their effects on eating behaviour. Nutrition bulletin, 34(2), 126-173. Available online at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01753.x